USF continued its remarkable trajectory in 2022. Led by Rhea Law, the first alumna to serve as president, accomplishments included enrolling the largest and highest-achieving first-year class in the university’s history, earning national and state recognition for being a great place to work, and setting a record for annual charitable giving.
Rhea Law becomes first alumna to serve as USF president
After serving as interim president for eight months, Rhea Law was named president of USF in March. The first alumna to serve in the role, she was selected unanimously by the USF Board of Trustees and confirmed on a unanimous vote by the Florida Board of Governors. Law has the rare distinction nationally of becoming president after previously serving four years as chair of the Board of Trustees – a founding member and first and only female chair – who also spent five years as vice chair. Law also served on several university boards, worked in the USF Office of Sponsored Research, and earned her bachelor’s degree in management. Under her leadership, the university experienced the most transformational legislative session in USF history, with record-setting investments in operations on all three USF campuses. She also led the effort to complete USF’s new five-year strategic plan, created a collaborative working group to develop a more transparent budget model and has fostered greater communication and collaboration across campuses.
Forbes names USF as a top employer
USF earned recognition from Forbes as one of America’s best employers for women and as one of the best employers overall in Florida. Among best employers for women, USF ranks No. 22 on the list, which includes employers across a wide range of industries. At USF, women account for 57% of all employees, including 64% of administration employees. In America’s Best Employers by State, USF ranks No. 21 out of 100 public and private employers across a wide array of Florida industries, and No. 2 among higher education institutions. USF employs nearly 15,700 people across its campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee. Among the topics addressed in the survey were working conditions, salary, potential for growth, remote-work benefits and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
USF hits all-time high in U.S. News ranking; medical school is fastest-rising in nation
USF hit an all-time high in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the best colleges in America, coming in at No. 42 among all public universities and No. 97 among all universities public or private. This marks the fourth consecutive year that USF has ranked in the top 50 public universities and the first time USF has broken into the top 100 among all universities. Over the past decade, USF has jumped a remarkable 52 spots among public universities, from No. 94 to No. 42, and 73 spots among all universities, from No. 170 to No. 97. A separate U.S. News ranking shows that the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine is the fastest-rising medical school in the country, climbing over the last decade from No. 80 to No. 46 for medical schools for research.
USF enrolls largest, highest-achieving first-year class in its history
USF enrolled the largest and strongest academic incoming class of first-year students in the university’s nearly 70-year history. Total enrollment of first-year students grew 9.4% compared to 2021. In addition, the class carried an average high school GPA of 4.20 (up from 4.18 last year), an average SAT score of 1308 (up from 1297 last year) and an average ACT score of 29 (up from 28 last year). This year’s class included a record 79 National Merit Scholars, an increase from 62 last year (27.4% increase). In addition, nearly 7,500 students are living in residence halls on the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses, the most ever for USF.
Planning for on-campus stadium gains momentum
Planning for an on-campus stadium continued to move forward this year. The stadium planning committee recommended it be built on the east side of the Tampa campus known as Sycamore Fields, which will help maximize the game-day experience for fans, create new opportunities for community building and provide synergy with the USF Athletics district. Barton Malow and Populous were selected as the design/build team, which has extensive experience in Florida and prior work with USF. The design phase of USF’s project will take approximately 18 months, with numerous engagement opportunities available for students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters to provide input.
Also this year, USF received two major gifts in support of the stadium project. One of the gifts, $5 million, was from longtime university supporters Frank and Carol Morsani. They were key figures behind the formation of USF football in the 1990s and the football team trains at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex that opened in 2011. Jeff and Penny Vinik also donated $5 million toward the project. The Viniks have been strong supporters of USF for many years, championing several USF athletics teams and were instrumental in USF Health’s expansion in Water Street Tampa. As the year was coming to a close, USF announced the hiring of Alex Golesh as the sixth head coach in USF football history. He comes to USF after serving as offensive coordinator/tight ends coach at the University of Tennessee the last two seasons.
New facilities enhance research, student experience
USF’s football team held its first practices this fall in the new $22 million Indoor Performance Facility. The 88,000-square-foot facility allows the football team and all other sports teams to enjoy climate-controlled training and protection from the Florida weather. Built on the current athletics turf field adjacent to Sycamore Drive, the facility features a 100-yard turf football field, branded lobby and observation deck. More than 400 donors contributed $25 million to build it, the highest total for any fundraising project in USF’s 55-year athletic history.
The USF Research Park in Tampa opened its first new building since 2005. The three-story, 120,000-square foot mixed-use facility features advanced laboratory facilities as well as office and meeting spaces for new and established companies. The state-of-the-art research center is designed to deepen the connection between university innovation and the business community and help advance the Tampa Bay region’s growing startup ecosystem. The $42 million project allows the university to significantly expand its Research Park, providing much-needed space.
Progress continued throughout 2022 on two other much-anticipated buildings on the Tampa campus. The three-story, 47,000-square-foot Student Wellness Center, located next to the Recreation & Wellness Center, will be nearly four times larger than the current Student Health Services building and will allow USF to provide better care to students by bringing more services together under one roof. It is expected to open right after spring break next year. Meanwhile, the Judy Genshaft Honors College will open in May, with the first classes in the building taking place during the Summer B session. The five-story, 85,000-square-foot facility will feature an outdoor amphitheater and multiple flexible spaces with advanced technology to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.
Annual charitable giving sets record
Philanthropic gifts exceeded $151 million in fiscal year 2021-22, the most generous level of support in the institution’s nearly 70-year history. This marks the fourth straight year that annual charitable giving benefitting the university surpassed $100 million and broke the previous record set in 2015. The $151.8 million raised over the past year represents gifts from more than 34,000 donors, including over 6,300 new donors who made their first gifts this year.
Among the gifts:
- In addition to the on-campus stadium, Carol and Frank Morsani pledged $7 million to endow the Morsani Scholars, which will offer scholarships to USF students; create an endowed chair in geriatrics; and a directorship and professorship focused on ethical leadership in business.
- Longtime donors Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton gave more than $14 million to help transform fintech education in the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance. Fintech, short for "financial technology," aims to improve traditional methods of delivering financial services to simplify financial transactions, making them more accessible and, often, more affordable to consumers and businesses.
- In March, the Bellini Center for Talent Development opened its doors. Arnold F. “Arnie” and Lauren Bellini provided $10.6 million to establish the center in the Muma College of Business. The Bellini Center works to increase job placements for USF graduates by filling the talent pipeline for Tampa Bay businesses with employees prepared to meet their needs through a three-year-plus certification program.
- In August, the School of Risk Management and Insurance, part of the Muma College of Business, received a major financial boost from Baldwin Risk Partners, a Tampa-based insurance distribution firm, totaling $5.26 million. The school was named after its generous donors. As the largest gift received on USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, it will provide scholarships to attract students to the major as well as resources to support their engagement with industry leaders with case competitions.
- The late Timothy Ubben gave $5 million to USF Health to create the Ubben Family Center for Pulmonary Fibrosis.
- In November, the university announced a
$1 million giftfrom Reliance Medical Centers supporting innovative programs focused on geriatric health care in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and USF Health.
Donors continued their support for scholarships, with more than $16 million raised for new and existing scholarships in fiscal year 2022, a 45 percent increase from the prior year. Connie and Tony Leung, founders of Sanwa Food Group, gave $1 million to establish the Leung Family Scholarships.
Expansion set to bring more success to USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus
With the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus bursting at the seams, two projects that are in the planning stages will transform the campus. The USF Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors have approved construction of a six-story housing/student center complex. The complex, which will accommodate up to 200 residents, will create a new living-learning environment for students, grow on-campus engagement and boost student recruitment and retention efforts. Construction is expected to begin in early 2023.
Also next year, the campus will launch a multi-million dollar capital campaign in support of a nursing/STEM building. The 75,000-square-foot facility will double the size of the campus’s nursing program; increase new majors in the health disciplines and other programs; and fill the need on campus for large classrooms, teaching and clinical labs and research facilities. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved an initial $3 million appropriation for the facility earlier this year.
Christian Hardigree named St. Petersburg campus regional chancellor
Christian Hardigree joined USF as regional chancellor of the St. Petersburg campus. She had most recently served as the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since beginning her new role July 1, Hardigree has met with civic and political leaders, interacted extensively with faculty, staff and students, captained a vessel in the annual Cardboard Boat Race and led the campus through Tropical Storm Nicole and Hurricane Ian – even spending several nights in a residence hall while Ian was approaching. She continues to work with President Rhea Law and other members of the leadership team to build a vision for the future of USF’s St. Petersburg campus that will capitalize on the campus’s unique character, growth and upward trajectory. In the future, she envisions an academic planning process that will include a discussion about the Environmental and Oceanographic Center of Excellence planned for the campus.
Diversity and inclusion efforts earn national, statewide recognition
USF received the 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, which recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is the third time that USF has earned this honor, which is presented by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. Diversity and inclusion are primary goals of USF’s five-year strategic plan unveiled in January. The plan prioritizes recruiting and retaining diverse students, faculty and staff, as well as enhancing programs to be inclusive of different perspectives. Also this year, the Office of Supplier Diversity received a 2022 Business Impact Award from the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council. This award recognizes organizations making a difference in the community through civic, philanthropic and volunteer initiatives.